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South San Francisco is a city in San Mateo County, California, United States, located on the San Francisco Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area. The population was 63,632 at the 2010 census.
Grand Avenue, between Spruce and Airport, is zoned “Downtown Core” by the City of South San Francisco, with various small shops and restaurants. Grand Avenue is host to a plethora of stores, one of which is Bronstein Music, a well-known local music store that has been around since 1946. City Hall is located on Grand Avenue, which, to the residents of South City, is known simply as “Grand.” Grand also runs perpendicular with one of the city’s other well-known streets, Linden, which connects San Bruno to Highway 101. Chestnut Avenue connects Hillside, the northern bordering street at the foot of San Bruno Mountain, to Westborough Blvd, and subsequently to one of the neighborhoods known as Westborough.
South San Francisco Real Estate
The city’s small downtown and several residential subdivisions, such as Mayfair Village, Sunshine Gardens, Avalon Park, Winston Manor, West Winston Manor, and Rancho Buri Buri, are located west of Highway 101, while the area east of Highway 101 is dominated by industrial complexes interspersed with modern office parks, particularly near the Oyster Point Marina on San Francisco Bay. The extreme western portions of the city near Interstate 280 sit along a hillside and offer views of San Francisco Bay. This area is known to local residents as Westborough. The southern part of the city, closest to the airport, is home to a large number of car repair shops, airport parking lots, and airport hotels.
Prior to European exploration, the northern San Francisco Penninsula was inhabited by the Ramaytush, a linguistic sub-group of the Ohlone people. Their village of Urebure on San Bruno Creek was visited by the Gaspar de Portolà expedition in 1769; remains of long-term (5,000+ years) inhabitancy and seasonal encampments have been examined at the Siplichiquin and Buckeye shell-mounds on San Bruno Mountain. Charcoal-sampling indicates these sites may have been actively occupied early in the Spanish colonial period (late 1700s). The delta of Colma Creek was formerly an important habitat for the waterfowl known to be hunted by the Ramaytush in historic times, and archaelogic sites have been recorded near the creek. The City plan also recognizes the existing remains of a village (CA-SMA-299) along El Camino Real.
The area which is now South San Francisco was originally part of Rancho Buri Buri, a large Mexican land grant to the Sanchez family dating to 1827. In 1853 Charles Lux and a business partner, Alfred Edmondson, purchased 1,700 acres (7 km2) of Rancho Buri Buri. Lux bought out Edmonson’s interest in 1856 and founded the town of Baden, now a neighborhood of South San Francisco. In 1855 Lux bought another 1,464 acres (6 km2) of Rancho Buri Buri land and became a partner of fellow San Francisco butcher and entrepreneur Henry Miller, forming the firm of Miller & Lux.
The city of South San Francisco was originally conceived as an industrial suburb and was promoted by representatives of the Beef Trust, a group including some of the country’s largest meat packing firms. A city plan was put forward in 1888 by Gustavus Franklin Swift, founder of the Swift & Company meat packing firm. The plan called for multiple individual meat-packing companies with a shared stockyard, as well as a residential area for employees. Swift proposed the name South San Francisco based on South Chicago and South Omaha, where the Swift company already had plants.
In 1890 Peter E. Iler of Omaha, Nebraska, an agent of the Beef Trust, purchased Lux’s property, and in 1891 ownership was transferred to the South San Francisco Land and Improvement Company. The area was divided into industrial and residential districts, and the company installed lighting, sewer connections, and water distributions in the residential areas. A second corporation, eventually known as the Western Meat Company, set up stock yards and meat packing facilities on 80 acres (32 ha) of bayfront property; the facility opened in 1892. Other industries soon moved in, including a pottery works, two brick companies, the paint manufacturer W.P. Fuller & Company, the South San Francisco Lumber Company, and the Pacific Jupiter Steel Company.
The city of South San Francisco was incorporated in 1908 following a dispute with San Mateo County, which had blocked the construction of a smelter on San Bruno Point which was supported by the locals. Following incorporation additional industries moved into the town, including two steel mills. A new City Hall was opened on November 11, 1920.
By the 1920s the city was “the smokestack capital of the Peninsula.” South San Francisco proudly called itself “The Industrial City”, a motto immortalized in 1923 by a huge sign on a hillside overlooking the city. Industry remained the city’s main economic focus through the 1950s. During the depression the city maintained 35 industrial operations, including four meat-packing businesses, six iron or steel plants, a smelter for precious metals, seven equipment manufacturers of various kinds, two large paint factories, three other chemical works, and three food packing establishments. During World War II shipbuilding also became a significant operation. From August 1940, until the end of the War, a total of 48 ships were built and launched at the Western Pipe & Steel Shipyards.
At the end of the war the city’s focus shifted away from “smokestack industries” toward light industry, warehousing, and residential development. The major manufacturers closed, and new development was focused on office parks, housing, high-rise hotels, and yacht harbors. The biotechnology giant Genentech opened in 1976, leading to South San Francisco’s new identity as “the birthplace of biotechnology”. The population grew to 63,632 as of the 2010 census.
South San Francisco lies north of San Bruno and San Francisco International Airport in the Colma Creek valley south of Daly City, Colma, Brisbane, and San Bruno Mountain; east of Pacifica and the hills of the northern Coast Range lying along the San Andreas Fault; west of the waters of San Francisco Bay. Locals often refer to the town as South City, in much the same way that San Francisco is called “The City.” Belying the name, South San Francisco does not touch on San Francisco, with either Brisbane, Colma, or Daly City lying between them.
Most of the valley faces east toward San Francisco Bay, affording bay views from higher levels. South San Francisco has mild winters and dry cool summers. The hills to the west shield the eastern parts of the city from some of the fog that prevails in neighboring areas.
The population grew from 4,411 in 1920 to 67,009 in 2014. It has tripled since World War II with the opening of such subdivisions as Buri Buri, Winston Manor and Westborough on the slopes west of El Camino;
The city is particularly noted for the South San Francisco hillside sign on Sign Hill, which rises to the north of the city, with large white letters that proclaim “South San Francisco, The Industrial City”. The sign, a tribute to the city’s industrial past, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
South San Francisco is adjacent to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). A BART station, located directly adjacent to El Camino High School and Solaire Transit Village, provides rapid transit service to SFO, the city of San Francisco, and the East Bay. BART supplements the Caltrain service between San Francisco and San Jose. Caltrain’s station is adjacent to downtown on Grand Avenue.
On June 4, 2012, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority began a ferry service between Oyster Point Marina and the east bay cities of Oakland at Jack London Square and Alameda at the Main Street ferry terminal. The ferry service operates during weekday commute hours only.
The city is served by several free shuttle services open to the general public:
- A South City Shuttle provides service between South San Francisco BART and the city’s downtown. It includes trips to local stores, the senior center, libraries, city hall and parks. The shuttle provides transit connections with both BART and SamTrans.
- A shuttle linking the South San Francisco Ferry Terminal to the Utah/Grand Ave office area operates during commute hours, Monday through Friday.
- A shuttle linking the South San Francisco Ferry Terminal to the Oyster Point office area operates during commute hours, Monday through Friday.
The city is transited by two major north-south freeways, U.S. Route 101 (the Bayshore Freeway), along the San Francisco Bay, and Interstate 280, along the hills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It also lies along the historic El Camino Real between Colma and San Bruno, and is bordered on the west by Skyline Boulevard.
South San Francisco is part of the South San Francisco Unified School District, which also serves portions of the neighboring cities of Daly City and San Bruno. The city is home to two public high schools: El Camino High School and South San Francisco High School, which share a cross-town rivalry. Baden High School and South San Francisco Adult Education are the city’s two continuation schools. The city also has three public middle schools: Parkway Heights, Westborough, and Alta Loma, as well as public elementary schools, including: Buri-Buri, Junipero Serra (located in Daly City), Los Cerritos, Martin, Monte Verde (in San Bruno), Ponderosa, Skyline (in Daly City), Spruce, and Sunshine Gardens..
Several parochial schools are also established in the city: All Souls School, Mater Dolorosa School (recently closed), and St. Veronica’s School.
The city is served by the South San Francisco Public Library which is part of the Peninsula Library System.
South San Francisco Fire Department currently has five fire stations. Station 61 is home to Engine 61, Rescue 61, Battalion 17, and a basic life support ambulance. Station 62 is home to the brand new Quint 62. Station 63 is home to Engine and Rescue 63. Its nickname is “The Bunker”. Station 64 is home to Engine 64. Station 65 is home to E65 and US&R 165 (Heavy Rescue) . Urban Search and Rescue, or USAR 165 is stationed there. It is manned by on duty crew from around the city and is decided before every shift. Rescue Boat 62 is located at Oyster Point Marina and can be staffed by Q62 personnel if needed.
South San Francisco includes of the following neighborhoods:
- Avalon Park
- Avalon Pines
- Buri Buri
- Francisco Terrace
- Mayfair Village
- Paradise Valley
- Pecks Lot
- Peninsula Pines
- Serra Highlands
- Sunshine Gardens
- Susie Way
- The East Side
- West Winston Manor
- West Park
- Winston Manor
Paradise Valley is so named because it resides in between Sign Hill and San Bruno Mountain. Students mostly from Westborough and Buri Buri attend El Camino High School. The majority of Brentwood and Paradise Valley inhabitants attend South San Francisco High School, as well as the East Side inhabitants. The same inhabitants are also so-divided among Westborough Middle School, Alta Loma Middle School and Parkway Heights Middle School respectively.
South San Francisco is not known as a tourist destination, but it is a key landmark visible to anyone who travels along the San Francisco Peninsula or through the nearby San Francisco International Airport. Sign Hill, near San Bruno Mountain State Park, displays huge letters on its mountainside which reads “SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO THE INDUSTRIAL CITY.” The letters are made of painted concrete and sit flush along the hillside (in contrast to the raised steel letters of the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles). The sign was put up in the 1920s, and in 1996 was given a place in the National Register of Historic Places as an outstanding example of early 20th-Century “civic boosterism”, a tribute to the past importance of heavy industry to the regional economy, and recognizing significant contributions the area made during World Wars I and II.
Sign Hill is now a city park which provides hikers with access to the letters; the park includes 30 acres (12 ha) of open space and almost 2 miles (3.2 km) of hiking trails. At the top of Sign Hill, a tall pole with electric lights serves as an electric Christmas tree, which is typically lit from the day after Thanksgiving until January 6. The “tree” is visible for many miles at night. In 2008, the pole was modified to hold a vertical number 100, celebrating South San Francisco’s 100th year as an incorporated city. For Memorial Day, Independence Day & Veterans Day, the pole flies an American flag. An airport weather-station is sited next to the flagpole.
Originally called the Cabot, Cabot and Forbes Tower when it was constructed in 1967 as the centerpiece of their industrial park, this striking 92-foot-tall sculpture by Lucia and Aristides Demetrios is one of the world’s largest aeolian harps. Named for Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind, and invented by the 17th-century polymath Athanasius Kircher, an aeolian harp is a passive instrument played by the movement of the wind. Fabricated from steel manufactured at Bethlehem Steel. It was designed to “take advantage of the viewer’s motion… constantly changing, presenting a series of graceful ellipses and a shifting light pattern.”
City Hall is located at 400 Grand Avenue. The City purchased the Civic Center site in 1913 for $10,000 from the South San Francisco Land and Improvement Company. This property had been marked for nineteen prime home sites. The City Hall design was modeled after Philadelphia’s Independence Hall’s neo-colonial Georgian design. The City’s Mayoral Office, City Manager’s Office, City Clerk, Economic and Community Development, Finance and Human Resources services are located in City Hall.
South San Francisco has a number of other parks: Orange Memorial Park offers baseball/softball fields, soccer fields, indoor swimming, picnic grounds, a sculpture garden, children’s play equipment, tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce ball, and a newly created skate park. It hosts a Saturday farmer’s market (May–October), as well as the annual “Concert in the Park” in September. Alta Loma Park, Buri-Buri Park, Monte Verde Park, Paradise Valley, Sellick Park, and Westborough Park all include facilities for sports as well as picnics, and the Terrabay Recreation Center has an excellent gymnasium. SSF Unified School District facilities are also available for sports, and the Boys and Girls Club of Northern San Mateo County is headquartered adjacent to Orange and Centennial Parks.
The city also has a park and marina along the shore of San Francisco Bay, named Oyster Point, which is also home to the private Oyster Point Yacht Club. South San Francisco has walkways and bike trails adjacent to the San Francisco Bay, from which runners are able to view San Francisco International Airport operations, while wind-surfers and kayakers may launch their watercraft. South San Francisco is home to many hotels as well, since it is close to San Francisco and actually directly next to SFO.
A unique opportunity was created when BART expanded down the Peninsula to create a “linear park” on the swath of undeveloped land on top of the tube. Running from Colma to Millbrae, South San Francisco’s portion is three miles long, running through the center of town from the South San Francisco BART Station to the San Bruno BART Station. The Class I bicycle and pedestrian trail is a 10″ wide asphalt pathway with 2′ decomposed granite shoulders, irrigated for low-maintenance landscaping, with safety lighting, signalized intersections where the trail crosses Spruce and Chestnut Avenues, and in-ground flashing lights at Orange Avenue. Also, a dog park is located adjacent from Orange Park along the pathway. The new park is called Centennial Way to commemorate the City’s 100th birthday in 2008.
Airport Blvd. is home to several airport hotels such as Four Points and Best Western, as well as the South San Francisco Convention Center. Within 2 miles of the airport, many visitors come to stay while in transit or while attending conventions. Despite several dining options such as Denny’s and IHOP are within walking distance of the hotels, but the cityscape here is particularly bleak, with no trees or other adornment to the street. The lack of crosswalks and otheer elements of complete streets, makes it especially unfriendly to pedestrians (most visitors do not come by car and it is thus hard to get from the hotels to nearby amenities).
Other places of interest
The downtown area along Grand Avenue has buildings from the city’s earliest days. Galli’s Sanitary Bakery operated from 1909 until it closed in October 2016, while – a few blocks down – the 1905 Plymire-Schwartz house was the North Peninsula’s first hospital; it is now operated by the Historical Society. The 1920 city hall is modelled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, while next to it sits the original 1916 Carnegie Library. The 1912 Metropolitan Hotel (built by the Meat Packers Consortium) now has a mural depicting SSF History high on its east wall. Bertolucci’s is an Italian restaurant that has also been around almost since the birth of the city, located in close proximity to downtown South San Francisco and is easily seen from highway 101.
The South San Francisco Public Library (part of the Peninsula Library System) has served the city since 1917 with branches in the Grand Avenue and on West Orange Avenue just off of Westborough.
As well as the Plymire-Schwartz house, the SSF Historical Society operates a museum in a former Water Company facility on Chestnut Avenue; it houses a collection that includes artifacts, oral history tapes, historic documents, special exhibits, and has a database for researching historical photographs. The City Library also houses a collection of documents and photos in basement-level offices at the historic landmark Grand Avenue Library. Fine WPA murals of SSF may be seen in the Linden Avenue Post Office and the Grand Avenue library. The SSF B.A.R.T. station displays a series of murals based on historic photographs of the city and its people which may be viewed from the transit platform. The former Historic Preservation Commission placed descriptive markers at fifty locations throughout the city.
Beginning in 1984, the city has pursued acquisition of artworks, most of which are displayed in parks and other public spaces. This program is administered by a Cultural Arts Commission, which also sponsors youth programs and public events.
The South San Francisco Farmers Market is at Orange Memorial Park from May through October, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The market offers only California-grown products sold directly to consumers.
Every Holiday season residents of Parkway Estates (a three-street development built in the mid-1980s off Chestnut Avenue) decorate their houses and yards with Christmas lights. This display is open to the public, is well-known holiday attraction, and hundreds of visitors arrive every holiday season. Lilac Lane (off of Palm Avenue) was an earlier seasonal decoration cooperative which began in the 1960s, at one point it was the destination of the city’s Santa Claus parade, and the spot where the local Chamber of Commerce Santa passed out toys from R.Dakin (formerly headquartered in SSF) to hundreds of children. Few of the original residents survive and decorative technology today has far surpassed the 60’s era so, in the 21st century, Lilac Lane has become a backwater.
South San Francisco has one bowling alley named Brentwood Bowl due to its proximity to the Brentwood Neighborhood on El Camino Real. The city is home to the private California Golf & Country Club, next to its public library, bounded by Ponderosa Road and Westborough.
Much of what is now South San Francisco was initially agricultural land, and was originally known as Baden. Small pockets of farmland still exist near San Bruno Mountain, but these lands have, over the years, been replaced by residential subdivisions. Acres of Orchids, founded by the Rod McLellan Company in the late 1920s, was one such example of a farm being converted to housing. Once one of the largest facilities in the United States producing orchids and gardenias, the nursery closed in 1998. A new housing tract now sits upon the land formerly occupied by Acres of Orchids greenhouses, off El Camino near Hickey.
The flat land east of Bayshore Freeway (US 101) is the R&D Campus of South San Francisco and carries on the tradition of the moniker on Sign Hill, “The Industrial City.” South San Francisco’s office parks and industrial zoning are favorable to meet needs of industry, and the property taxes levied from the extensive industrial park provide revenues for the city. South San Francisco is home to one Fortune 500 company, food wholesaler Core-Mark.
South San Francisco is home to Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotech companies, as well as a satellite office of Amgen, the world’s largest biotech firm. Many other biotech companies, such as Exelixis, have also started or moved to South San Francisco to be in proximity to UCSF, Stanford University, and UC Berkeley; all are within an hour’s drive. A sign located on East Grand Avenue declares South San Francisco as the “Birthplace of Biotechnology.”
The headquarters and main factory of See’s Candies is located in South San Francisco, having moved from the original plant in Los Angeles due to the cooler weather. Air China operates an office in South San Francisco.
Galoob had its headquarters in South San Francisco before Hasbro bought the company in 1998. Hudson Soft USA, a subsidiary of Hudson Soft, and Sanrio, Inc., had its headquarters in South San Francisco. SuccessFactors, a multinational, cloud-based human capital management solution company is headquartered in South San Francisco.
Content Courtesy of Wikipedia.org
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